Trend Watch


In the flesh

Lucifer rose up from the depths of the dictionary on April 29th, 2016, (spiking approximately 7700% over the previous day’s lookups) on the heels of news reports that former Speaker of the House John Boehner had referred to Senator Ted Cruz as "Lucifer in the flesh" while speaking at Stanford University earlier in the week.

Lucifer has been in the English language for a very long time, and has not solely carried the meaning of "Satan." The word comes from a Latin root—lucifer, in Latin, means "light-bearing"—and has also been used by poets to refer to Venus, the morning star.

Although it is possible that Boehner was making a muted classical reference, and intended to characterize Cruz as a bearer of light, this seems unlikely, as he in the same talk referred to the senator by another turn of phrase which is incompatible with this imagery. Lucifer was also used by John Milton in Paradise Lost, as the name for Satan before his fall. In modern use, it is most often employed to simply refer to the Devil, or to a person who resembles the Devil in quantity of pride or degree of evil.

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